December 9, 2018

North Carolina City Council Won’t Allow Israeli Training of Police Force

A North Carolina City Council issued a statement on April 5 declaring that they wouldn’t accept Israeli training of their police force.

The statement stemmed from a October petition from various groups – including Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) – calling for the Durham City Council to break away from Israeli training of the city’s police. Their rationale was that Israeli law enforcement’s supposed “long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color” would help “the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.”

“We want to live in a Durham that ensures true collective safety for all, and so we demand that the City of Durham immediately halt any partnerships that the Durham Police Department has or might enter into with the Israeli Defense Forces and/or the Israel Police,” the petition reads.

On April 4, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis issued a memo stating that while she had “training experience” in Israel, she has no intention of ever having her police force receiving training from Israelis. The city council stood behind Davis in their statement.

“In Durham, our community is working towards a time when we are beyond policing–when everyone has a good job and excellent health care and a safe, warm, affordable place to live,” the statement reads. “Until that time comes, we want police that is founded on earning the trust of the community.”

The statement proceeded to tout a decline in crime in Durham as well as “a profound cultural shift” in the police department.

“Black lives matter,” the statement reads. “We can make that phase real in Durham by rejecting the militarization of our police force in favor of a different kind of policing, and that is what we are doing in Durham right now.”

A letter signed by seven rabbis in the areas had advocated for the city council to not cave to the petition.

“To link Israel to white supremacy and other forms of hate speech in the U.S, to insinuate that Israel teaches American police to attack minorities in our country, or that problems in U.S. policing are due to the Israel/Palestinian conflict are insulting and will only serve to demonize Israel and the Jewish people,” the letter states. “Efforts to delegitimize Israel are a purposeful strategy by some organizations, part of a broader strategy to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, and one that is purposefully targeting Durham to accept terrible lies. No evidence exists that sharing best practices on counter-terrorism in society cannot be beneficial to those that listen, reflect and make decisions for their own communities.”

Guest columnist Peter Reitzes wrote in The Herald Sun that city council members signing onto the petition was “deeply disrespectful to the brave women and men of the Durham police force.”

“The City Council should be working respectfully and productively with the Durham police force; not aligning themselves with those who wish to eliminate it,” Reitzes wrote.

Reitzes pointed out that Israel played a role in preventing a terror attack against an Australian airliner.

“Through circumstances it never wanted, Israel has been forced to become a world leader in preventing terrorism,” Reitzes wrote. “Israel now shares its expertise in protecting and respecting communities.”

Reitzes then slammed JVP for bringing “its anti-police and anti-Israel agenda to the city of Durham.”

“City Council members are not helping the citizens of Durham by aligning themselves with an outside group that promotes anti-Semitism and seeks to defund the local police,” Reitzes wrote.

As Jewish Virtual Library explains, there have been joint police training sessions between Israel and the U.S. since 1997. In 2003, 33 top U.S. law enforcement officials went to Israel for a meeting on dealing with terror, and afterward then-Washington D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey called the meeting “invaluable.”

“They have so much more experience in dealing with this than we do in the United States,” Ramsey said.